April 9, 2007


Where are the Iranian Reformists? (Manal Lutfi, 4/09/07, Asharq Alawsat)

In Iran, the reformists have learnt three lessons from their defeat in the last presidential and parliamentary elections; firstly, not to boycott an election again; secondly, to be stronger in their confrontations and to avoid taking the middle ground when it comes to public demands; and thirdly, to unite and limit the number of their intellectual and organizational differences.

This is what the reformists tell themselves in preparation for a return to the political arena. Everyday there are debates between reformist politicians in Iran for the sake of forming a major coalition that unifies their various branches. The coalition will not necessarily comprise of all reformist trends as there are those that have stated that they are unaware of these efforts and not interested in joining them. One such example is the Etemad-e-Melli party [National Trust Party], led by former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who told Asharq Al Awsat that he had never heard of any efforts by some reformist parties to form such a coalition. However, Ebrahim Yazdi, the leader of the Freedom Movement Party and an active player in the formation of the new coalition, told Asharq Al Awsat that the reformist currents presented the idea to Karroubi, who refused to take part.

The idea of forming the new coalition stemmed from the growing concern within the reformist movement over losing its popular base, especially as communication has become difficult between the reformists and a wide section of society because a number of their newspapers and websites have been closed down. The reformists also feel the danger posed by the fact that they did not win the majority of votes in any election held recently in Iran. Since Khatami’s victory in the 2000 presidential election, the reformists have not been successful in elections. In the 2005 presidential election, conservative candidate Ahmadinejad emerged most successful, followed by pragmatist candidate and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, Hashemi Rafsanjani. Meanwhile, reformist candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mustafa Moeen came out third and fifth respectively, in the first run of the election. In the last December election for the Assembly of Experts, Rafsanjani-led pragmatists were the most successful by far, with the Karroubi-led reformists taking second place and the Misbah Yazdi-led conservatives in third.

Many prominent reformists do not blame these defeats on the conservatives and the support that they receive from authorities. Rather they blame their conduct during the last presidential election.

It wasn't President Bush's best moment either, when he encouraged them to boycott an election they could easily have won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2007 7:41 PM
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